Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Penang will not get to see a chariot procession or kavadis during Thaipusam coming 28th January for the first time in almost 150 years. While the final decision will be known only early next month, the proud 126-year procession passed of the annual silver and gold chariot processions.
“No chariot processions, thaneer panthals (refreshment stalls), kavadis or paal kudam (milk pots) will take place,” said Dr. P Ramasamy, chairman of the Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB).
On Thaipusam day, both Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Hilltop Temple and the Chettiar Temple preparations will still allow pilgrimages for pooja (prayers) only.
“We are waiting for the National Security Council’s basic operating procedure, which will explain the dos and don’ts of the festival,” Dr. Ramasamy said.”
Meanwhile, during the pooja session on Thaipusam Day, which will be held between 11am and 1pm followed by lunch thereafter, the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple would only permit 300 people into the temple should the government give them the go ahead.
This will allow for physical barriers and social distancing between the devotees.
“We will definitely have a festival without the chariot for the first time ever, but we are not in normal times and the pandemic must be taken seriously,” said Meyappan Manickam, managing trustee of Nattukotai Chettiar Temple.
In 2017, the PHEB rolled out the golden chariot, shattering the pattern of more than 100 years of a single silver chariot procession.